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LEAD | It’s all downhill now for the organizers of Saturday’s Great Tennis Ball Race in Lead.

And the parade of puns and euphemisms is well underway, as well.

This all started when retired Homestake Gold Mine employee Steve Mason of Lead sought an idea for a fundraisers for children’s activities in Lead.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, he decided on a variation of the Great Duck Race, which raises money selling chances of owning the fastest of thousands of tiny rubber ducks dumped into a flowing stream or creek.

Lead really didn’t have a suitable creek for floating rubber ducks, Mason said, but he wondered why the similar concept of balls rolling down a hill, which mile-high Black Hills community has in great quantity, could not serve the same purpose?

“Growing up in Lead, I’ve chased balls down the street hundreds of times,” he said. “Why don’t we use that?”

So the Great Tennis Ball Race was born. At 10 a.m. Saturday, Nearly 700 numbered tennis balls will be loosed from the bucket of a front-end loader at the intersection of West Summit Street and Mill Street.

From there the balls will plummet down the steep incline of Mill Street to the intersection at Lower McClellan Street, where they will be funneled into the finish line.

Owners of the first five balls will each claim $100 prizes. More than 50 winners of donated merchandise and services will be picked at random. Even the very last ball to finish gets $50.

Proceeds from the event will be shared and shared alike between the Boys and Girls Clubs and the Handley Center of Lead.

Balls were sold for $5 each, or five for $20, and were snapped up by residents and people in several states and even Canada, Mason said.

Ball sales have concluded for Saturday’s race, but spectators will be eligible for a special "Surprise Prize" to be awarded during the event, Mason said.

Vicki Strickland was so taken with the idea, she bought the first five balls.

“Then it turned out I was on the committee (with Mason), and we became the committee,” she said.

“We just got rolling with it,” said Mason, euphemistically, “We had a bunch of bumps to go through.”

“We bounced the idea off people,” Strickland added, continuing the pun-fest.

A test run earlier this week indicated the potential of balls bouncing off course and landing in residential yards.

Strickland hopes spectators lining both sides of the more than 1,000 feet length of the Mill Street run will keep the balls in play all the way to the finish line.

“We know we’re probably going to lose a few,” Mason said.

Mason and Strickland hope to minimize the hassle of the event for residents living along Mill Street, who must remove cars parked along the street for race day. Each residence along the route received a free ball entry.

“It’ll probably take more time to pick up the balls and clean it up than to run the actual race,” Mason said.

Mason and Strickland, a retired Seaton Publishing newspaper designer, hope to keep the ball rolling, so to speak, for the event.

“It’s all in hope we can help our Boys and Girls Club and the Handley Center,” Mason said. “This is our very first one. Hopefully it becomes an annual thing and gets bigger every year.”

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